I have a girlfriend visiting from a few states away. Last night after making dinner and cleaning up we settled in front of the fire. I flipped through a few magazines and cast on the stitches for a knit hat. She crocheted a tiny white and pastel blanket. It was very calm, very domestic. When I looked up from my knitting she had this serious, concerned, deep-in-thought look on her face. In truth she seemed to be scowling at the fire.

“What are you thinking about?”

She looked up. Long pause.

“Babies.”

“Oh yeah? What about babies?”

She proceeded into a long and bouncing soliloquy about starting a family. She covered: the pitfalls and benefits of childbearing; adoption options; appropriate timelines related to first finding a partner, then spending time with that partner, then marrying, then spending time married, then reproducing; financial commitment of a child in both the immediate and over the long term; the dangers of advanced maternal age; the cons of a sperm bank. The list went on. At the beginning she said more than anything she wants the option for children. At the end she said she wants children.

I sat across from her and listened to the worries and concerns pour out of her, and I couldn’t help it; as she was winding down, I smiled a bit.

“What?”

“Do you want to know what I was thinking about?”

“Sure.”

“Ice climbing.”

Then she scowled at me.

It’s not that I don’t ever think about children, partners, or life down the line, I told her. Right now, though, I know that as as much as we might try to plan, or schedule, or force things to happen, when it comes down to it we have to play the cards we’re dealt, and hopefully enjoy it while it’s happening. There’s a lot to be said for knowing what you want out of life and taking appropriate steps to achieve your goals, but sometimes I think we can get ahead of ourselves. We plan the wedding before the first date. Turn on the oven before catching the bird.

I want my friend to have the option to have babies. But I also want her to know that today there’s a great, big, beautiful world out there, and it’s not going to wait for her to get out in it. I want to take the silly quote, “Life is what happens while we’re making other plans,” and sticky note it around the house while she’s here. A gentle reminder that sometimes worrying can get in the way of living.

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